Retirement housebuilder calls for planning reforms to encourage bungalows amid post-pandemic spike in demand

McCarthy & Stone is calling for a change to planning rules to allow the development of bungalows amid growing demand for the product in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Official figures show that just 1,833 bungalows were built in 2020, less than 1% of new homes overall and a drop of more than 80% from the equivalent figure at the turn of the century.

McCarthy Stone Woodhall Spa 1

Current planning rules, which incentivise high-density development, make it difficult to secure planning permission for bungalow developments, and hard to secure land in a competitive market.

The number produced also marks a drop of 23% from the figure in 2019, despite what McCarthy & Stone claims is growing demand from over-65s for single-storey living.

The retirement housebuilder said that 70% of more than 2,000 over 65s surveyed on its behalf said they would consider moving to a bungalow, up 10% on an equivalent survey undertaken in 2019.

The firm’s chief executive, John Tonkiss, said the growth is demand was “likely” down to the impact of covid-19 driving a desire for more suitable accommodation.

McCarthy & Stone, which in January was bought up by US private equity house Lone Star for £647m, said it wanted to see current planning rules torn up to allow local authorities to prioritise sites for bungalow developments.

This could include allowing local authorities to allocate age-restricted bungalow-only sites in local plans, or requiring developers of other sites provide age-restricted bungalows as part of the housing mix.

Tonkiss said build rates had “collapsed” in recent years, despite them being increasingly popular with retirement home-buyers. He said: “The impact of lockdown and Covid-19 is likely leading older people to want to consider living in a more suitable property, and bungalows fit into this category.

“The importance of building more suitable housing for older people has been brought to the fore by the coronavirus pandemic and the UK has the opportunity to redefine how best to support our ageing population, including through the provision of better housing.”

McCarthy & Stone and other retirement and extra care operators have long called for planning reforms in order to encourage the growth of the market. Last autumn the Association of Residential Care Operators, which represents private extra care providers, called on the government to set up a task force to find ways of delivering more housing for older people.

Operators have demanded exemptions from obligations to provide affordable housing, based on the lower returns available from later living schemes.